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Chapter 106

Mahabharata English - ANUSASANA PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘The disposition is seen, O grandsire, in all theorders of men, including the very Mlechchhas, of observing fasts. Thereason, however, of this is not known to us. It has been heard by us thatonly Brahmanas and Kshatriyas should observe the vow of fasts. How, Ograndsire, are the other orders to be taken as earning any merit by theobservance of fasts? How have vows and fasts come to be observed bypersons of all orders, O king? What is that end to which one devoted tothe observance of fasts attains? It has been said that fasts are highlymeritorious and that fasts are a great refuge. O prince of men, what isthe fruit that is earned in this world by the man that observe fasts? Bywhat means is one cleansed of one’s sins? By what means doth one acquirerighteousness? By what means, O best of the Bharatas, doth one succeed inacquiring heaven and merit? After having observed a fast, what should onegive away, O king? O, tell me, what those duties are by which one maysucceed in obtaining such objects as lead to happiness?’

“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Unto Kunti’s son by the deity of Dharma, whowas conversant with every duty and who said so unto him, Santanu’s son,Bhishma, who was acquainted with every duty, answered in the followingwords.’

“Bhishma, said, ‘In former days, O king, I heard of these high merits, Ochief of Bharata’s race, as attaching to the observance of fastsaccording to the ordinance, I had, O Bharata, asked the Rishi Angiras ofhigh ascetic merit, the very same questions which thou hast asked metoday. Questioned by me thus, the illustrious Rishi, who sprang from thesacrificial fire, answered me even thus in respect of the observance offasts according to the ordinance.’

“Angiras said, ‘As regards Brahmanas and Kshatriyas, fasts for threenights at a stretch are ordained for them, O delighter of the Kurus.Indeed, O chief of men, a fast for one night, for two nights, and forthree nights, may be observed by them. (They should never go beyond threenights). As regards Vaisyas and Sudras, the duration of fasts prescribedfor them is a single night. If, from folly, they observe fasts for two orthree nights, such fasts never lead to their advancement. Indeed, forVaisyas and Sudras, fasts for two nights have been ordained (on certainspecial occasions). Fasts for three nights, however, have not been laiddown for them by persons conversant with and observant of duties. Thatman of wisdom who, with his senses and soul under control, O Bharata,fasts, by abstaining from one of the two meals, on the fifth and thesixth days of the moon as also on the day of the full moon, becomesendured with forgiveness and beauty of person and conversance with thescriptures. Such a person never becomes childless and poor. He whoperforms sacrifices for adoring the deities on the fifth and sixth daysof the moon, transcends all the members of his family and succeeds infeeding a large number of Brahmanas. He who observes fasts on the eighthand the fourteenth days of the dark fortnight, becomes freed frommaladies of every kind and possessed of great energy. The man whoabstains from one meal every day throughout the month called Margasirsha,should, with reverence and devotion, feed a number of Brahmanas. By sodoing he becomes freed from all his sins. Such a man becomes endued withprosperity, and all kinds of grain become his. He becomes endued withenergy. In fact, such a person reaps an abundance of harvest from hisfields, acquires great wealth and much corn. That man, O son of Kunti,who passes the whole month of Pausha, abstaining every day from one oftwo meals, becomes endued with good fortune and agreeable features andgreat fame. He who passes the whole month of Magha, abstaining every dayfrom one of the two meals, takes birth in a high family and attains to aposition of eminence among his kinsmen. He who passes the whole month ofBhagadaivata, confining himself every day to only one meal becomes afavourite with women who, indeed, readily own his sway. He who passes thewhole of the month of Chaitra, confining himself every day to one meal,takes birth in a high family and becomes rich in gold, gems, and pearls.The person, whether male or female, who passes the month of Vaisakha,confining himself or herself every day to one meal, and keeping his orher senses under control, succeeds in attaining to a position of eminenceamong kinsmen. The person who passes the month of Jyaishtha confininghimself every day to one meal a day, succeeds in attaining to a positionof eminence and great wealth. If a woman, she reaps the same reward. Hewho passes the month of Ashadha confining himself to one meal a day andwith senses steadily concentrated upon his duties, becomes possessed ofmuch corn, great wealth, and a large progeny. He who passes the month ofSravana, confining himself to one meal a day, receives the honours ofAbhisheka wherever he may happen to reside, and attains to a position ofeminence among kinsmen whom he supports. That man who confines himself toonly one meal a day for the whole month of Proshthapada, becomes enduedwith great wealth and attains, to swelling and durable affluence. The manwho passes the month of Aswin, confining himself to one meal a day,becomes pure in soul and body, possessed of animals and vehicles inabundance, and a large progeny. He who passes the month of Kartika,confining himself to one meal every day, becomes possessed of heroism,many spouses, and great fame. I have now told thee, O chief of men whatthe fruits are that are obtained by men by observing fasts for the twoand ten months in detail. Listen now, O king, to me as I tell thee whatthe rules are in respect of each of the lunar days. The man who,abstaining from it every day, takes rice at the expiration of everyfortnight, becomes possessed of a great many kine, a large progeny, and along life. He who observes a fast for three nights every month andconducts himself thus for two and ten years, attains to a position ofsupremacy among his kinsmen and associates, without a rival to contesthis claim and without any anxiety caused by any one endeavouring to riseto the same height. These rules that I speak of, O chief of Bharata’srace, should be observed for two and ten years. Let the inclination bemanifested towards it. That man who eats once in the forenoon and onceafter evening and abstains from drinking (or eating anything) in theinterval, and who observes compassion, towards all creatures and pourslibations of clarified butter on his sacred fire every day, attains tosuccess, O king, in six years. There is no doubt in this. Such a manearns the merit that attaches to the performance of the Agnishtomasacrifice. Endued with merit and freed from every kind of stain, heattains to the region of the Apsaras that echo with the sound of songsand dance, and passes his days in the company of a thousand damsels ofgreat beauty. He rides on a car of the complexion of melted gold andreceives high honours in the region of Brahma. After the exhaustion ofthat merit such a person comes back to earth and attains to pre-eminenceof position. That man who passes one whole year, confining himself everyday to only one meal, attains to the merit of the Atiratra sacrifice. Heascends to heaven after death and receives great honours there. Upon theexhaustion of that merit he returns to earth and attains to a position ofeminence. He who passes one whole year observing fasts for three days insuccession and taking food on every fourth day, and abstaining frominjury from every kind adheres to truthfulness of speech and keeps hissenses under control, attains to the merit of the Vajapeya sacrifice.Such a person ascends to heaven after death and receives high honoursthere. That man, O son of Kunti, who passes a whole year observing fastsfor five days and taking food on only the sixth day, acquires the meritof the Horse-sacrifice. The chariot he rides is drawn by Chakravakas.Such a man enjoys every kind of happiness in heaven for full fortythousand years. He who passes a whole year observing fasts for seven daysand taking food on only every eighth day, acquires the merit of theGavamaya sacrifice. The chariot he rides is drawn by swans and cranes.Such a person enjoys all kinds of happiness in Heaven for fifty thousandyears. He who passes a whole year, O king, eating only at intervals of afortnight, acquires the merit of a continuous fast for six months. Thishas been said by the illustrious Angiras himself. Such a man dwells inheaven for sixty thousand years. He is roused every morning from his bedby the sweet notes of Vinas and Vallakis and flutes, O king. He whopasses a whole year, drinking only a little water at the expiration ofevery month, acquires, O monarch, the merit of the Viswajit sacrifice.Such a man rides a chariot drawn by lions and tigers. He dwells in heavenfor seventy thousand years in the enjoyment of every kind of happiness.No fast for more than a month, O chief of men, has been ordained. Eventhis, O son of Pritha, is the ordinance in respect of fasts that has beendeclared by sages conversant with duties. That man who, unafflicted bydisease and free from every malady, observes a fast, verily acquires, atevery step the merits that attach to Sacrifices. Such a man ascends toHeaven on a car drawn by swans. Endued with puissance, he enjoys everykind of happiness in heaven for a hundred years. A hundred Apsaras of themost beautiful features wait upon and sport with him. He is roused fromhis bed every morning by the sound of the Kanchis and the Nupuras ofthose damsels.[489] Such a person rides on a car drawn by a thousandswans. Dwelling, again, in a region teeming with hundreds of the mostbeautiful damsels, he passes his time in great joy. The person who isdesirous of heaven does not like the accession of strength when hebecomes weak, or the cure of wounds when he is wounded, or theadministration of healing drugs when he is ill, or soothing by otherswhen he is angry, or the mitigation, by the expenditure of wealth, ofsorrows caused by poverty, Leaving this world where he suffers onlyprivations of every kind, he proceeds to heaven and rides on cars adornedwith gold, his person embellished with ornaments of every kind. There, inthe midst of hundreds of beautiful damsels, he enjoys all kinds ofpleasure and happiness, cleansed of every sin. Indeed, abstaining fromfood and enjoyments in this world, he takes leave of this body andascends to heaven as the fruit of his penances. There, freed from all hissins, health and happiness become his and whatever wishes arise in hismind become crowned with fruition. Such a person rides on a celestial carof golden complexion, of the effulgence of the morning sun, set withpearls and lapis lazuli, resounding with the music of Vinas and Murajas,adorned with banners and lamps, and echoing with the tinkle of celestialbells, such a person enjoys all kinds of happiness in heaven for as manyyears as there are pores in his body. There is no Sastra superior to theVeda. There is no person more worthy of reverence than the mother. Thereis no acquisition superior to that of Righteousness, and no penancesuperior to fast. There is nothing, more sacred, in heaven or earth, thanBrahmanas. After the same manner there is no penance that is superior tothe observance of fasts. It was by fasts that the deities have succeededin becoming denizens of heaven. It is by fasts that the Rishis haveattained to high success. Viswamitra passed a thousand celestial years,confining himself every day to only one meal, and as the consequencethereof attained to the status of a Brahmana. Chyavana and Jamadagni andVasishtha and Gautama and Bhrigu–all these great Rishis endued with thevirtue of forgiveness, have attained to heaven through observance offasts. In former days Angiras declared so unto the great Rishis. The manwho teaches another the merit of fasts have never to suffer any kind ofmisery. The ordinances about fasts, in their due order, O son of Kunti,have flowed from the great Rishi Angiras. The man who daily reads theseordinances or hears them read, becomes freed from sins of every kind. Notonly is such a person freed from every calamity, but his mind becomesincapable of being touched by any kind of fault. Such a person succeedsin understanding the sounds of all creatures other than human, andacquiring eternal fame, become foremost of his species.'”

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